Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell: Social Distortion

Rating: 90%

Social_Distortion_-_Somewhere_Between_Heaven_and_Hell_cover1992 was the year that “Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell” by Social D was released. The album features some very talented musicians. The musicianship is incredible. Lead vocalist and lead guitarist Mike Ness whose voice is whiskey drench sings the blues or country and punk as if those genres were created for him. His leads and riffs are so precise. Rhythm guitarist Dennis Danell throws out such good riffs. He actually compliments Mike Ness’s style. Plenty of great bass by John Maurer. The drum lines by Christopher Reece are wonderfully done.

Musically, this album is rock solid from start to finish. It flows very well. The influences from Punk, Country, Blues, Rock n’ Roll, and Rockabilly are  so balanced. It’s heavy, but it could be played on any radio station no matter the genre. It’s very energetic and powerful. Everything in so in tuned here from the melodies to the harmony of the instruments to the vocals.

Track listing:

“Cold Feelings” – 3:31
“Bad Luck” – 4:26
“Making Believe” (Jimmy Work) – 4:12
“Born to Lose” – 4:09
“Bye Bye Baby” – 3:06
“When She Begins” – 5:04
“99 to Life” – 4:28
“King of Fools” (W.E. Bruce) – 2:50
“Sometimes I Do” – 4:01
“This Time Darlin’ ” – 4:08
“Ghost Town Blues” – 4:38

The Pursuit Of Happiness: The Beat Farmers

Rating: 90%

r-593302-1135993129-jpegI was introduced to the Beat Farmers shortly after this release in 1988. It was Country, it was Punk, it was Rockabilly, and it was Rock. I didn’t know how to take the band at first, but I quickly grew to love the Beat Farmers.

The musicianship is extremely tight with this group. The band members often switched instruments, but you had guitarist & vocalist Joey Harris, bassist Rolle Love Bass, drummer, pianist, vocalist & guitarist Country Dick Montana, and drummer, vocalist, harp, & guitarist Jerry Raney.

Musically, this is Country music done in a fun way that was just as traditional as any. Their style of Punk, traditional Country, and Rock n’ Roll is remarkable. The guitar work is truly a work of art. The remake of Johnny Cash’s “Red River” is wonderfully done. Country Dick has that voice that is deep enough to pull a great cover off. The lead guitar that is heavily distorted is amazing.

The Beat Farmers were one of those bands that were somewhat popular and then after the death of Country Dick, just went their own ways. “The Pursuit of Happiness” is still one of my favorite albums of theirs.

Track listing:

Hollywood Hills 4:21
Ridin’ 4:08
Dark Light 4:08
Make It Last 4:04
Key To The World 3:22
God Is Here Tonight 3:40
Big Big Man 3:58
Elephant Day Parade 2:44
Rosie 2:23
Texas 3:26
Big River 2:36

Radio Active Cats

rac.jpgRating: 75%

OK, so going through my CDs that I have, I pulled this out. When the Hair Metal bands ruled the airwaves, there was a smaller movement of traditional Hard Rock music that just never caught on. Bands like Tangier, Barefoot Servants and Radio Active Cats fused together traditional Southern Rock, Country Rock, Blues Rock, and other influences such as Rockabilly and Classic Rock to create this new Hard Rock sound. But, the music world wasn’t ready for it. And by 1995, it was to late for these bands to gain international or even national fame.

Who were the Radio Active Cats? Well they were a band from California. They consisted of vocalist and guitarist Shel Graves, drummer Michael Graves, guitarist Ian Espinoza, and bassist Ron Maldonado.

In 1991, R.A.C. released their self titled debut and their only record. This record, although never went far, musically had some really good Blues and Country Rock vibes. Many considered this as Heavy Metal, but it’s more based around Hard Rock than anything. It’s got some really good riffs, slide guitar, and leads. Decent drumming. Music strucutre is great on songs like “Shotgun Shack” that is very Bluesy and has a very tight Country Rock sound. “Hold on Tight” is a nod to classic RockaBilly music. This album has a lot of melody and harmony. The vocal work isn’t all that bad. Lyrically, the band needed to put some extra work into their song writing.  “Finger in the Pie” is a good example where the music is good, but the lyrics just suck!

This is a fun trip down the 1990’s memory lane. Although, for bands like R.A.C., many people never heard of them and most people probably never will. At least I did.

Track listing:

1. Shotgun Shack
2. Hold on Tight
3. Bed of Roses
4. Finger in the Pie
5. Standin’ in the Rain
6. Love Razor
7. Cry on My Shoulder
8. Think About Love
9. Cheap Mascara
10. Knock Knock
11. Wet, Hot Sweat

I Feel Alright: Steve Earle

Rating: 85%

Steve_Earle_-_I_Feel_Alright_CoverartI’ve always liked Steve Earle since “Copperhead Road” was released in 1988. He fuses country, folk and rock into his own brand of Country Rock music. This fusion is what I liked about his music. It was like listening to Tom Petty, Merle Haggard, John Mellencamp and Neil Young all in one.

Steve Earle released “I Feel Alright” in 1996. This album has some really great songs on here. The title track for one “Feel Alright” has a lot of attitude and is like a tiger that has been let out of the cage. It has a heavy acoustical opening which is quickly followed by the rest of the band. His southern drenched raspy voice is amazing.

“Hurtin’ Me, Hurtin’ You” is another great song off this album. It starts out as a country slow song. But by the second verse, the music deepens. The chorus is a mixture of clear undistorted guitars, while a lightly distorted guitar is in the background. Then the bridge comes which is sloppy, but, it’s a work of art at the same time. You can feel the pain in this song from the music to the way Steve Earle sings.

“Poor Boy” is a nice piece of Country music that is influenced by Rockabilly. The melody and tempo are both a nice nod to the old days of Johnny Cash.

“The Unrepentant” is the heaviest song on this album. The electric guitar on this song is borderline Hard Rock. The drumming is very aggressive and features a few offbeats that is not normally found in Country music. The lead on this track is great. It has a groovy riff too.

“CCKMP” or “Cocaine Can’t Kill My Pain” is about the drug addition that grasped Steve’s life. It’s just Steve and a Dobro. The song itself has a very eerie, deep and heavy sound to it. It’s aggressive lyrics and vocal style is so evil.

This album is not a bad album. There are many good songs on this album that are uplifting and some that are just downright sad. These songs are part of Steve’s recovery and therefore, are coming from his heart.

Track Listing:

“Feel Alright” — 3:04
“Hard-Core Troubadour” — 2:41
“More Than I Can Do” — 2:37
“Hurtin’ Me, Hurtin’ You” — 3:21
“Now She’s Gone” — 2:48
“Poor Boy” — 2:55
“Valentine’s Day” — 2:59
“The Unrepentant” — 4:31
“CCKMP” — 4:30
“Billy and Bonnie” — 3:39
“South Nashville Blues” — 3:39
“You’re Still Standin’ There” — 3:24